SPRINGVILLE - If the Springville volleyball tournament bracket played out as expected Saturday, Sept. 19, the class 1A fifth-ranked Orioles would play class 2A 10th-ranked Jesup in the tournament championship match.

      Not so coincidentally, things played out like most thought they would, including Springville claiming yet another tournament title.

      “We hosted our tournament with a couple less teams,” said Oriole volleyball coach Claude Howard, as his team handled the highly-ranked J-Hawks taking a 25-17, 25-16 final in the title tilt.

      “Both Belle Plaine and North Cedar dropped from the tournament due to COVID related issues, leaving us with six teams, Central City, Cascade, Easton Valley, Cedar Valley Christian, Jesup and Springville.”

      The tournament was split into two pools, with the winner of each facing each other in the championship, where the Orioles (12-1, 1-0) were powered by a balanced offensive attack as seven different Springville girls hammered down kills against Jesup led by nine from Savanah Nealman.

      Kennady Breitfelder added seven kills while Lily Clark chipped in with five more. Nia Howard set 22 assists in the championship while the Oriole defense also played a huge role in the triumph coming through with nine blocks in the two-set match, led by two each from Nealman, Lauren Wilson and Clark.

      Ashlynne Zaruba led all Springville back row players coming up with nine digs.

      “We played today without starting libero Grace Matus who was out with an injury,” Howard said. “Sophomore Ashlynne Zaruba filled the role and did a great job taking Grace’s place on defense. It was hard to duplicate the leadership and vocal presence Grace has on the court, but Ashlynne stepped up today and worked hard to embrace the role. Overall, she had 26 digs and was a perfect 17-of-17 serving on the day.”

      Springville opened the tournament with a 25-14, 25-17 victory over Easton Valley as Nealman’s eight kills on 22 attacks were too tough for any River Hawk defender to slow down while Clark added four kills to go with two blocks.

      Howard set 20 assists while Penny Blackmore was busy in the back row with 12 digs.

      Blackmore and Howard powered the Oriole serving corps drilling two aces each as the team connected at a 96-percent clip.

      Springville closed pool play with a roller-coaster 25-8, 25-23 win over Cedar Valley Christian.

      Wilson (6 kills) and Nealman (5) combined to rip 11 of the Orioles’ 22 kills in the match while Howard set 15 assists.

      “Easton Valley gave us some fits to start the day, but our team overcame some struggles defensively to win both sets,” Howard said. “We put a different look out there against CVC in the second set, trying a 6-2 offense with some different hitters and defenders, which led to the slower start to that set.

      “The team really put it together against Jesup and played a steady match with great blocking and defense as well as executing well on the offensive side. I was really proud of how our team responded today. The match against Jesup looked more like the Orioles we have seen over the past couple of weeks.”

      Springville opened their busy week with their first Tri-Rivers Conference West division triumph, taking a 25-21, 25-17, 25-17 decision at Central City Thursday, Sept. 17.

      “As always with a rival, the games were tight and our crew didn’t play as strong a match as we would have liked,” Howard said. “We struggled to get into sync and had some rough moments in serve receive that kept our team from a better offensive showing.

      “However, in Springville form we had seven players record kills.”

      Clark led the Oriole hitting crew slamming down eight kills in the match while Nealman and Breitfelder chipped in with five more each. Nia Howard, Molly Stamp and Wilson all added four kills for the Springville offense as Howard also set 26 assists.

      Wilson and Clark played big roles on the defensive side of the net as well, each swatting back four Wildcat shots recording eight of the team’s nine total blocks.

      “Overall, it was a decent night for our team, nerves aside,” Howard said. “I was proud of our team for taking the errors on our side of the net in stride and not allowing the negatives to affect the outcome of the game.”

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